Our newest Family Fun self-contained tour covers the entire length of the heralded Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Cumberland, Maryland. Featuring moderate mileages and 150 miles of bike trail with an average gradient of under one percent, this is an ideal trip to introduce family members of all ages to the fun and freedom of self-contained touring. The tour includes an appealing mix of camping and indoor accommodations chosen for their proximity to fun off-bike, family-oriented activities like swimming, rafting, hiking, museum visits, and tours of historic sites. We even supply lightweight pannier kits for the kids so they can experience carrying their own gear.
The main highlight of the tour, however, is cycling along the GAP, which follows the abandoned grades of the Western Maryland Railway and the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad. Located along the length of the trail are spectacular bridges and three long tunnels. And you can’t beat beautiful Ohiopyle State Park for a layover day, where you may want to take advantage of the hiking trails, nearby rafting, and the natural rock water slides.
We’ll also have a chance to sample a few miles of the C&O Canal Towpath near Cumberland before boarding our shuttle van for the ride back to Pittsburgh.
Please note: In order to participate in our Family Fun tours adults must be accompanied by a child and children must be accompanied by an adult.
|Start Date:||Jul 12, 2014||End Date:||Jul 19, 2014|
|Start Location:||Pittsburgh, PA||End Location:||Cumberland, MD|
|Total Days:||8||Riding Days:||6|
|Average Daily Mileage:||25.5||Surface:||Unpaved Bike Path|
|Airport:||Pittsburgh International Airport|
|Tour Leader:||Steve Powell, Julie White, Lee Goode||Meals:||Shared cooking|
|Physical Difficulty:||Beginner||Level of Support:||Family Events|
Pittsburgh, PA. We’ll meet up mid-afternoon at the bike-friendly residence halls of Duquesne University, located in the heart of Pittsburgh and just a short distance from the start of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP). It’s a great setting for our group orientation, where we’ll discuss trip details, demo the cooking equipment, and divide up the group gear. After sharing our first meal together, we can stroll across one of Pittsburgh’s great bridges and take the inclined railway, or “funicular,” to a viewing platform high above the city. Then it’s back to our dorm rooms for some shut-eye to prepare for the big adventure ahead.
Pittsburgh to Elizabeth, 28 miles. We’ll start the day with a group breakfast, then pack our lunches and head out on the relatively quiet Sunday morning streets for a mile or so to Mile Zero of the GAP, near the confluence of the Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela rivers. Though not very long, it’s the longest section of road travel we’ll encounter during the entire week, as virtually all of the rest of the trip will be on the car-free GAP. After pausing for a group photo, we’ll hit the trail, hugging the north side of the Monongahela River. We’ll cross that river twice today on dedicated bicycle and pedestrian bridges. Our destination for the evening is a quiet campground located steps from the trail and adjacent to an historic cemetery.
Elizabeth to Connellsville, 30 miles. Our route today follows the meandering Youghiogheny River and passes through small towns, including one with a great bike shop offering a selection of bike accessories and GAP keepsakes for sale. It’s well situated to help out with any bike problems that may have cropped up over the first few miles of the ride. (While we carry our own group tools and can help with minor adjustments, it’s always good knowing there’s a bike shop along the route!) After regrouping for a riverside lunch in Cedar Creek Park, we’ll continue on toward tonight’s full-service campground. There, the theme is water: You can choose between swimming in the river or in a large pool … or both!
Connellsville to Ohiopyle State Park, 21 miles. We continue our trek alongside the Youghiogheny River, or the “Yawk” as the locals call it, enjoying the shade provided by a dense canopy of trees. You’ll enjoy the quiet, which is occasionally interrupted by the rhythmic sounds of a freight or passenger train following the tracks on the other side of the river. We’ll take advantage of today’s short mileage by arriving at our destination mid-day, permitting time for a swim or even a raft trip on the Yawk. Tonight, we’ll take a welcome break from camping and spend the first of two nights in guesthouses in the town of Ohiopyle.
Ohiopyle State Park. A great breakfast kicks off the day as we take advantage of our guest homes’ full kitchens. Don’t be surprised to wake up to the smell of French toast, pancakes, or omelets prepared by the day’s designated cooking group. This can be a true rest day: The town of Ohiopyle offers plenty of fun options within easy walking distance, including viewing Ohiopyle Falls, taking a hike, swimming at the natural carved-rock waterslides, or just lying out in the sun reading a book. The super-energetic may want to tackle one or both of a pair of extremely hilly road rides that lead to homes designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright: Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob. Alternatively, shuttle rides can be arranged to these homes for those preferring to “tackle” the 10-percent grades from the backseat of a comfy van.
Ohiopyle State Park to Rockwood, 30 miles. Setting out from Ohiopyle after our layover day, we’ll ride a final few miles alongside the Youghiogheny, before leaving the river in the town of Confluence which sits at the junction of the Youghiogheny River, the Casselman River, and Laurel Hill Creek. We’ll follow the twists and turns of the Casselman to Rockwood, where we’ll camp right alongside the river. As the evening’s designated chefs head into town to get supplies for dinner, the rest of us will have plenty of time to explore the riverbanks or town.
Rockwood to Cumberland, 44 miles. It’s the longest mileage day of the trip, but it’s really a 20-mile ride followed by 24-mile descent on a gentle downhill grade. We’ll leave camp fairly early to take advantage of the cool morning as we climb gradually to the highest point on the GAP: the Eastern Continental Divide, 2,392 feet above sea level. From here, it’s downhill all the way to Cumberland. We’ll ride through a trio of tunnels: The 3,294-foot-long Big Savage Tunnel, the 957-foot-long Borden Tunnel, and the Brush Tunnel, which comes in at 914 feet. Not far past tunnel number two is the town of Frostburg, a terminus of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad that runs adjacent to the GAP all the way into Cumberland. In Frostburg you may notice the unique turntable on which detached steam engines are rotated 180 degrees before being reattached to the other end of the train. We might even have time to check out the nearby museum focusing on 19th century transportation. From Frostburg, it’s a quick downhill run into downtown Cumberland and the end of the GAP. We’ll stay in a hotel just steps from the trail, and enjoy a well-earned celebratory dinner.
Cumberland, MD to Pittsburgh, PA by shuttle. We’ll have the morning to explore the beautiful city of Cumberland before heading back to Pittsburgh. Some group members might want to bike a few miles of the C&O Canal Towpath, which begins right near our hotel and ultimately leads 185 miles all the way to Washington, DC. There’s also a fine National Park Service visitor center and museum at the junction of the GAP and the C&O at Canal Place. After grabbing lunch, we’ll board the shuttle back to Pittsburgh with our bikes, equipment, and memories from a terrific group adventure.
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"Loved every minute of it!"
2012 Tour Participant
“I love the fact that you can eat ice cream or milkshakes every darned day and not get fat.”
"As always, extremely pleased with the total experience."
2012 Tour Participant
"I think that the level of support for the price was outstanding compared to other tours I've done."
2008 Tour Participant